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Every month, a reader asks one of our sponsor legal experts about a work-related issue. These building trades law professionals respond in an Organized Labor exclusive. This month’s expert is Jeremy Cloyd of The Veen Firm. Ask Jeremy a question at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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I was working on a home construction project when I fell from scaffolding and hurt my back. A railing that should have been installed was missing. The company that put up the scaffolding says that it was my employer’s job to make sure the scaffolding was safe. It seems like the scaffolding company should have made sure the right railings were in place. Who is right?

I was working on a home construction project when I fell from scaffolding and hurt my back. A railing that should have been installed was missing. The company that put up the scaffolding says that it was my employer’s job to make sure the scaffolding was safe. It seems like the scaffolding company should have made sure the right railings were in place. Who is right?

Every employer in California has a responsibility to provide its employees with a safe place to work. California Labor Code section 6400 makes this clear. But job site safety is most often a shared responsibility amongst many people and companies – not just the employer of the injured worker. Determining who is responsible and to what degree requires a close look at both the facts and the rules that apply to the type of work.

Construction sites are usually what California considers “multi-employer worksites.” Such worksites involve many different companies that must work at the same time and location, requiring everyone to consider how their work practices will affect the safety of others. California law requires all employers to consider job site safety whether they are the employer whose employees were exposed to the hazard, the employer who actually created the hazard, or the employer who had the authority or responsibility to correct the hazard. Labor Code § 6400.

Scaffolding-specific safety rules provide some support for the point that an employer that puts workers on scaffolding must inspect that scaffolding for safety. Cal-OSHA, for example, requires that “All scaffold planks shall be visually inspected for defects before use each day.” 8 C.C.R. § 1637(f)(6). And the federal OSHA regulations state that “Scaffolds and scaffold components shall be inspected for visible defects by a competent person before each work shift, and after any occurrence which could affect a scaffold's structural integrity.” 29 CFR § 1926.451(f)(3).

Other specific scaffolding rules impose safety obligations on installers of scaffolding by defining exactly how scaffolding must be erected and dismantled, including the installation of safety railings. For example, metal scaffolds seven and a half feet or higher must have a railing that is between 42 and 45 inches above the platform. 8 C.C.R. § 1644(a)(6).

Construction contracts, and other agreements between companies can sometimes help show who is responsible for ensuring compliance with these safety rules. The scaffolding contractor, for example, often agrees to install the scaffolding in compliance with all applicable safety regulations.

You should consult with both a workers compensation attorney and a civil attorney knowledgeable about standards and laws relating to scaffolding. A workers compensation attorney can help you get medical treatment but will not cover the full extent of your damages. A civil attorney can determine whether someone on the jobsite other than your employer should pay for losses not covered by workers compensation..

-Jeremy Cloyd,Label Trial Team; The Veen Firm, PC
Ask Jeremy a question at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“Interaction via “Ask the Expert” does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Any advice given is neither legal advice nor does it serve as a replacement for hiring an attorney. In addition, any case results mentioned or discussed are not guarantees of similar results.”
Jeremy Cloyd

This Month's Expert; Jeremy Cloyd

Jeremy Cloyd is an attorney on the Label Trial Team at The Veen Firm, PC. He litigates injury cases involving negligence, wrongful death, products liability and industrial accidents. For more information on this article, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit The Veen Firm’s website at www.veenfirm.com.

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